Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mid-Career Course Correction

Panelists: Ira Pramanick (coordinator), Ana Pinczuk, Catherine C. Lasser, Anne Krook, Mimi Hills, Robin Goldstein

In this panel, each panelist answered 2 of 4 questions:

* How do you realize your career's off-track?
* How can you get it back on track?
* What are some related women-specific issues?
* How does the discussion vary for forced versus voluntary changes?

AP started by pointing out that it's important to first understand what you want. Understand what "on track" means to you. Do you enjoy what you do, are you proud of it? At one point, she felt she was stagnating and went back to school to get her third master's.

MH never felt her career was off-track, though others might have said it was. She recommended being unafraid to make lateral moves, knowing your priorities, and talking to people. When you make a change, make sure your "career sponsors" (such as previous managers or people you worked with) know about it and why you're doing it.

CL also never thought of her career as being offtrack, but as a continuum that she had to keep re-visiting. She pointed out that goals will change over time; 30 years ago, she didn't know this is what she'd be doing. Again, she reiterated the importance of enjoying what you do. If you do enjoy it, you are passionate about it and it helps you go forward, especially early in your career. Again, it's also good to tell people what you want, both mentors and managers. In terms of voluntary versus forced career changes, she recommended that if it's voluntary, don't get "too comfortable" in a position. If it's forced, look for the learning opportunity and what it can do for you.

AK said women are more likely to take time away from the paid workforce. Therefore, think about a career change as something that's more likely than not to happen, especially by the time you're over 40. Also think of yourself as having a skill set rather than a job. And a bright side of forced change is that it can minimize the amount of time you spend fearing change, which may be one of the most debilitating factors in a voluntary career change.

RG realized careers can go off-track for reasons like self-applied pressure and self-doubt. Trying to chart an ideal career track based on things you "should" be doing in order to prove yourself can actually move your career off-track instead. She learned this herself after 2.5 years of pain trying to follow a track she "should" follow. Instead, look at your own priorities (for both voluntary and forced changes), and remember that a career track need not be vertical.

There was plenty of interesting audience comments and discussion. Topics included:

* How are things different in a small versus large company?
* How do you make the move from a stable job when you want more (and what is the harm in not making the move)?
* What one skill did each person carry across careers?

And now, it would be great if you could also share your experiences and responses to some of these questions / topics! Have you changed careers? How far do you agree with the panelists? What skills do you find the most transferable?

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